The USA *after* this financial crisis – part I, about politics

As this economic earthquake continues shaking the world, we can only guess at the results.  There will be a recession, probably a global one.  But that too will pass.  What effects from this will ripple into the future?

This is speculation about the unknowable, to help us understand the magnitude of these events and open our imaginations to the possibility of extreme outcomes.  This series considers the following ways in which the crisis will have large and long-reaching effects.  (note the links to other chapters in the series)

  1. Political realignment in the US — dominance of the Democratic Party for a generation or more.
  2. Economic structure — a massive increase of government power, a slower growing but more stable economy.
  3. Oil prices and supply — lower prices followed by far higher prices, perhaps government ownership.

This post discusses #1:  the coming political realignment of America.  Political parties have three kinds of life:  intellectual, popularity, and power.  This crisis will lead to a massive shift in all three dimensions from the Republicans to the Democrats.

Intellectual

Parties have doctrines, which exist and evolve largely due to each party’s “thinkers”  — who may be in an ignored remnant, a vibrant minority, or dominant.  Since WWII the Conservatives (the ideological heart of the Republican Party) went through this sequence; now they will return to stage one — a ignored minority, considered cranks by a large fraction of the public.

This is a fate they have earned.  They supported the mutant Republicanism of Bush II:  a big-government, anti-civil liberty, pro-foreign war President.  Now they follow McCain — even less conservative than Bush II — into oblivion.  Pro-gun and anti-abortion have become the lodestones of Conservative thought, as other other beliefs were cast aside.  Their support for Governor Palin shows the bankruptcy of this strategy; their mindless prattle about her wonderfulness are perhaps their last lines on the American political stage.  For the next generation they will again be talking mostly to one another; perhaps during this time in the desert they will again find something worth our attention.

Popularity

Consider the the Republican Party’s record of domestic and foreign policy.  It has led us into two wars that so far have yielded zero benefits to America, and seem likely to yield less benefits in the future.  As the dominant party since 1980, their management of the economy will be considered the epitome of insanity by future generations — the reckless accumulation of debt on all levels that eventually capsized the economy.  These policies were largely supported by the Democratic Party — key policy initiatives in America are usually bipartisan — but the leading party takes responsibility for the success or failure of its policies.

The only factor saving the Republicans from electoral annihilation in November is that events have moved so quickly that Americans do not yet know the scope and magnitude of the damage.  The 2010 election probably will complete the purge from office of all but the most strongly entrenched Republicans.

Power

Power in our society is distributed among a network of “nodes.”  Media, academia, political structures, the military, the judicial system, businesses, etc.  Liberals, the heart of the Democratic Party, gained control of many sectors in the New Deal — and retain them today.  They will add more nodes to their score in the coming years.  Most notably, they will gain near-total control of the judicial system.  Control of the academia, mainstream media, and all three branches of government — this will give them the ability to reshape America.  A time of crisis and uncertainty will open American to change.  This nation will look much different ten years from now.

Afterword

If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below.  You may find answers to your questions in these, such as the causes of the present crisis.  I have been writing about these events for several years; since November 2007 on this site.  As you will see explained in these posts, the magnitude of the events now happening is beyond what most Americans have — or can — imagine.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information about these things

What can we do to fight this crisis?  See A solution to our financial crisis.

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

A few posts about America – how can we reform it?

  1. Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
  2. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
  3. A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?, 3 July 2008
  4. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  5. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  6. A soft despotism for America?, 22 July 2008
  7. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  8. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  9. Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
  10. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
  11. Fixing America: elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
  12. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
  13. Fixing America: solutions — elections, revolt, passivity, 18 August 2008
  14. The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
  15. Another step away from our Constitutional system, with applause, 19 September 2008

34 thoughts on “The USA *after* this financial crisis – part I, about politics

  1. I suspect that your predictions of a complete sweep of the Republicans from office is premature. One of the pillars that supported the Republicans for a long time was the ineptness of the Democratic party and its lack of unity and new ideas. It remains to be seen whether they have finally learned their lesson or whether Obama is the latest permutation of the problem.

    If the latter is true (or at least seen as true) then the Republicans will recover fairly quickly otherwise your predictions are likely to be accurate. It must be terrible to have frittered away all of your advantages to the point where your survival depends on the stupidity of others.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: We tend to judge “aptness” and “inaptness” by results. The Republicans have tended to be winners since 1982, so we look at their smart moves and ignore their mistakes. And vice versa.

    I look at the actions of Republicans in the last 4 – 8 years and see no superiority in organization or ideas to the Democratic Party.

  2. I wonder how your predictions square with the realities of the source of the new Democrat majority, specifically, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats with pink-to-red districts. People do not change their moderate, center-right tendencies overnight, so I think your predictions are overblown. Sean Oxendine has done great work on the breathless talk of “re-alignment,” and while anything is possible, the idea is somewhat oversold.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Unless Oxendine wrote his analysis a week ago, it is outdated. As I have written for so long in the series “End of the post-WWII geopolitical regime“, the forces now unleashed will reshape the world.

    This is Stephen Jay Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium applied to social — not physical — evolution. After a long period of stasis, things are again in motion.

  3. I really think you confuse conservatism and the current republicans. Bush was not a conservative by any measure. He is a pro-life moderate at best. The people are looking for someone they can trust and they really are not seeing it from either side. Right now the Democrats are the only option on the field to choose from. What really concerns me is that we are in a political mode very similar to Rome. As time goes by the opportunity for an individual to become the “saviour” of the state will become more likely. This election will be very close and it will near impossible to declare the domination of one party just yet.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I think there is an echo here!

    “Bush was not a conservative by any measure”

    I said “They supported the mutant Republicanism of Bush II: a big-government, anti-civil liberty, pro-foreign war President. Now they follow McCain — even less conservative than Bush II — into oblivion.” Sounds pretty similar to me.

    “we are in a political mode very similar to Rome. As time goes by the opportunity for an individual to become the “saviour” of the state will become more likely.”

    Any evidence for this fear?

  4. Speaking as a lifelong Democrat and as someone who basically agrees with your critique of the Republicans, I nevertheless find today’s Democrats to be a feckless lot. Most significantly, they lack a coherent credible program, such as that which animated them from the New Deal through the Great Society.

    The root of their problem is the decline of the nationstate and the problems this decline poses for a party that tends to formulate national solution for most problems.

    The real action will be with those who will be developing post national political and social organizations.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: The New Deal as an ideological construct was — like most such (e.g., the War of the Roses, the Hundred Years War) an after-the-fact thing. FDR’s policies were an inconsistent jumble. For example, FDR ran in some ways as a conservative (e.g, denoucing Hoover’s budget deficits: “Out of the Red with Roosevelt”), not a radical.

    The only unifying theme was the promise “Happy Days Are Here Again” – upon which the New Deal never delivered. WWII restarted the economy, but hardly in a “happy days” form.

  5. Fabius,

    I’m one of the more left-leaning people to write on 4GW-related subjects, so there is a certain craven glee I take in watching the fragmentation of the GOP. But I am very worried about the idea of the Democrats governing without a strong opposition party. Once the victory is carried past the culminating point, there is a high chance that ideological sclerosis will set in. After all, establishment liberalism’s excess point was Vietnam and the various domestic crises of the 1970s. On the other hand, I suppose given the cyclic nature of American politics this is unavoidable.

  6. FM, I fear you are correct.

    The underlying ‘end of democracy’ I fear is that voters will vote for politicians that promise to allow them to spend Other People’s Money, as if they are more wealthy than they are.

    This spending of other people’s money is unsustainable. So either the spending will stop with a system similar to what we have, or the system will be signicantly, or radically, changed in order to stop excess spending.

    At the same time, to counter the paradox of thrift, it is appropriate for the gov’t to spend more, now, on infrastructure — just like the Dems are claiming.

    The ‘conservatives’ are split into 3 camps: pro-victory in the WOT (especially Iraq), ‘limited government’ in economics, and pro-life (who are often Big Gov’t types). Until Roe v Wade is overturned, there will be a quite significant pro-life conservative set of voters; who will probably keep voting Rep since the Dems are so pro-abortion.

    With Iraqi victory almost certain, and Obama sounding like a neo-con in Afghanistan, the WOT seems likely to become less of an issue … until Iran gets a nuke (or just before?) (or just after Tel Aviv is nuked?).

    On the economy, I actually hope that the rich fat cat bankers get financially hammered in clawback taxes and other semi-punitive measures (non-criminal, except where there was fraud). Bush’s big gov’t Rep supporters have given the Free Market a terrible name (even when it’s not the market) — but we all have long known that power corrupts.

  7. “Liberals, the heart of the Democratic Party, gained control of many sectors in the New Deal — and retain them today. They will add more nodes to their score in the coming years. Most notably, they will gain near-total control of the judicial system. Control of the academia, mainstream media, and all three branches of government — this will give them the ability to reshape America.”

    Liberals aren’t going to reshape America. Global events and major productive and financial forces will re-shape America. Ideology is a shadow of power, not a maker of it.

    At the very least, “liberals”, as they exist today, or as embodied in Obama, won’t reshpe America. They are how we got here, thoroughly embedded in the reigning neo-liberal ideology. Over time, in response to the real economic misery that seems to be coming our way, more radical reformers may come to power through the Democratic party and reshape our social and economic structures. But that will be a different Democratic party.

  8. Fabius:
    I look at the actions of Republicans in the last 4 – 8 years and see no superiority in organization or ideas to the Democratic Party.

    While I strongly agree with you on ideas, the Republicans have been able to keep their organization more-or-less intact by throwing out people who might disagree with them. This has made them smaller than normal but very well organized and motivated.

    With the exception of the first-go-around on the bail-out bill, the Republicans have been able to reliably block or modify legislation in any number of ways to make it conform to their desires. You are correct that they will probably get hammered this election but unless the Democrats can show some serious party unity it is likely that the next President is going to need Republican assistance to pass legislation which will give them an impact far greater than their numbers and can be built upon to rebuild the party for the 2010 congressional elections.

  9. All of this goes back to a question I asked a while back. What is a liberal? For that matter, what is a conservative? I already know Fab’s response, I would like to hear from some of the above respondents on how they would define the terms “liberal” and “conservative”. The 2 words are so overused that they have lost their meaning. By using them, it is assumed that everyone knows what they mean. Everyone that is except me.

  10. I wonder how your predictions square with the realities of the source of the new Democrat majority, specifically, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats with pink-to-red districts.

    This very phenomenon is how you can tell the balance of power has shifted. In the old days, those “Blue Dog Democrats” would have called themselves “Republicans”. (Witness, for instance, the mass defection of conservative Democrats to the other side of the aisle after 1994.)

    When you live on the edge of a razor you pay close attention to which way the wind is blowing.

  11. My suspicion is that this is more likely to lead to a realignment away from the present two parties or at least their structure as we know them today. Both comprehensive immigration reform and the Paulson rescue/bailout bill both exposed a vast and largely bipartisan divide between the voters and their elected representatives.

    I remember well the cold blast of electoral nuclear winter the GOP faced in 1992, when the only national voice of opposition was Rush. Obama & co. will win with >40% of the country strongly opposed, and the new media landscape will work to harden that opposition.

    The worse this thing gets, the more pressure there will be to investigate the bagmen of Wall Street and the GSEs in Washington. The Dodds, Franks, Raines, and Johnsons will need President Obama a lot more than he will need them. A few public spectacles will go a long way to establish his strength and independence.

    Looking over the past 25 years the only substantial difference between Democrats and Republicans on economic policy has been around the edges on marginal rates on income and capital gains. Mom wanted to charge new furniture and linens while dad wanted to charge a Harley and some new guns, but they both agreed that it was easy money.

    If there is a major realignment, my guess is it will be in the form of a populist closer to Pitchfork Pat or Ross Perot than anything else.

  12. Since WWII the Conservatives (the ideological heart of the Republican Party) went through this sequence; now they will return to stage one — a ignored minority, considered cranks by a large fraction of the public.

    This seems unlikely, even if it would be richly deserved. Look at the electoral map from 1932, when FDR blew the Hoover Republicans into exile for two generations. 1932 was a landslide; FDR took 472 electoral votes (!). That’s a comprehensive repudiation of the other party.

    Now look at the projected electoral map today. Even though the current GOP is universally loathed, there’s somewhere between 150 and 200 EVs worth of states (mostly the Old Confederacy and the mountain West) who are unwilling to give up on them. That’s not enough to win with, but it does suggest that some non-trivial fraction of the electorate still stands with the cranks.

    Of course, a lot can change in a month, and given the speed with which Obama has been widening his lead it’s not impossible to imagine it ending in a 1932-style blowout (especially if the crisis continues to deepen). But it does imply that the modern GOP is not going to wither into irrelevance the way the GOP of the 1920s did.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: As I said in the post, the cannot do so in this election, due to the short time between the econo-quake and the election (unlike the 3 years between the 1929 crash and the 1932 election). The Democrats have the opportunity to finish the job in 2010.

  13. I really think you confuse conservatism and the current republicans. Bush was not a conservative by any measure.

    An eerie echo of the hard core of the old Left, who insisted that the fall of the Soviet Union didn’t mean the failure of Communism, because real Communism had never been tried in the USSR or elsewhere…

  14. For a few brief moments, when the Hourse voted down the origninal $700 billion bailout, the real political divide in the country was revealed: centralizers committed to the extension of the state, of both political parties, vs the American taxpayer.

    That divide has now, once again, been retranslated (by the centralizers) into the traditional and comfortable narrative of Republicans vs. Democrats which only serves to obscure and make more difficult the political realignment that is truly needed.

    To the extent that the Fabius narrative endorses the inevitability and eternal reoccurence of the Democratic vs Republican political divide he makes more likely the continued dominance of the centralizers.

  15. GregL, I’ll take a crack at your request for a definition of liberal & conservative.

    1. The terms are used nowadays as ideological referents to Democrats and Republicans. Outside the party context they are a) hard to define these days and therefore b) meaningless functionally speaking.

    2. There is a large difference between party supporters and the legislators and other operatives (“officials” who actually work the system.

    3. Regarding officials: Democrats support the broad, centralizing agenda of the military-industrial-congressional complex whilst proclaiming that the role of government is to foster fairness to all along with growth. Republicans support the broad, centralizing agenda of the military-industrial-congressional complex whilst proclaiming that centralised government is the main obstacle to allowing free-willed, upright citizens to thrive without such interference.

    4a Regarding general supporters: Liberal Democrats tend to live in large, urban populations where the collective infrastructure dwarfs the individual or neighbourhood – if there even is one – and so are naturally more comfortable with strong, benevolent, efficient governance systems. They believe that America is a pluralistic, diverse society and emphasise ‘rights’ and ‘equality’ ideologically – necessary in urban situations and believe America is unique and special because of its ability to thrive as such.

    4b. Repubublican Conservatives tend to live in smaller population or class-related zones where individual and/or smaller community identity and initiative is both required and more valued. They tend to resent too much interference from broad, federal legislation which is geared towards harmonising conflicting needs of the masses at the expense of fostering individual and collective character and differences. They believe that America is mainly an ex-European pioneer territory with a unique character and often confuse/conflate patriotism with loyalty to this vision and community culture.

  16. I think your idea that democrats will enjoy a structural realignment is overblown. The country is split approximately evenly between Dems & Republicans and the current election will see the Dems pick up a few percent and thus swing things. But then they will have to lead and in this they must do a fundamentally better job than Right. Their performance, based on current Congress, should give one pause. The speed of capital flow & news today and the hyperpartisanship means the Dems will cause an excitement amongst the Right’s base. Just as Bush’s two terms revved the left. In two years the Democratic congress will face voters again and they will have been in power for four years. “They” will the incumbents.

    If we suffer a severe and, especially a protracted recession, then the Democratic realignment will be very short-lived. The possibilities for a structural realignment is dependent on how both parties react to the 2008 election. If the Dems get all 3 branches of government they will be judged by results and by how the look. Reid, Pelosi, and Obama are not heavyweights. “Its all Bush” will not resonate in 2010.

    More and more this election feels like 1976. If Obama wins and proves to be as weak as Carter then the Democratic honeymoon will be shortlived. But who on right whom could step up to a Reagan mantle, with his years crafting his message, remains a mystery. The scary truth appears to be that neither party seems to have real heavyweights now and so I suspect we’ll spend the next several years simply muddling about.

  17. “…when the House voted down the original $700 billion bailout, the real political divide in the country was revealed: centralizers committed to the extension of the state, of both political parties, vs the American taxpayer.”

    Jim is right on–how is it that author of the post on the Death of the American Constitution does not recognize that not all opposition to the socialist Democrats (as well as BHO and his wacky friends) is coming from the twenty percent or so who still approve of President Bush?

  18. (Bob Siles) “The scary truth appears to be that neither party seems to have real heavyweights now and so I suspect we’ll spend the next several years simply muddling about.”

    I agree with the conclusion, but not the premisses. Leaders (heavyweights) don’t cause political alignments; at best, they reframe public perceptions to suit policy alignments already in place. We’ll be “muddling along” for the next several years because there are no easy solutions (policy directions) to the economic mess we’ll be in. The danger here is that if the misery index goes very high, we’re apt to see all kinds of demagogic and/or populist figures arise. Already, I hear intelligent folks calling for people like Warren Buffett and George Soros to manage the crisis. The reactionary populism of Gov. Palin is not that different, in its psychological roots, from the adulation of the so-called heroes of high finance.

    My puzzle is whether the urgency of the economic sphere will shove the WOT into the wings, or the WOT become even more important as a distraction from a basically intractable economic/social situation.

  19. ArmsMerchant:

    If you are in a liquidity crisis, the worst thing you can possibly do is wait. It is like worrying about water damage when the fire department is trying to keep the house from burning down.

    The problem I see is after 6+ years of truly rotten, bipartisan-incumbent-axis-party government, no one really trusted the powers-that-be when they shouted “fire!” I can’t blame them entirely for that instinctive reaction.

    I don’t know if this was/is really “the Big One” that the whole Fed/FDIC/Treasury system was set up in order to combat. The problem with Google is that makes everyone an instant expert on TED spreads, LIBOR, the Baltic Dry Index, and a dozen other things they never heard of before. Certainly everyone I knew on Wall Street said that the day the bailout was proposed, we were on the verge of a massive crash as money funds would be forced into liquidation. If I only looked inside my world, where I sell software that helps companies recruit new employees, everything looks hunky-dory. A lot of people look out their window and are content when they don’t see thunderclouds.

    What I do feel pretty certain about is that there’s still plenty of time for governments to @#$! this situation up.

  20. “Their support for Governor Palin shows the bankruptcy of this strategy”

    Fab, you seem to have an irrational hatred of Palin. You’ve bought into the centralist media caricature and ignored 1) how well she has served her constituents, 2) how quick a study she is, and 3) how healthy her view of “good government” is despite the McCainiac’s early attempts to misshape her into a dry, I’m-a-liberal-too-only-less-so Republican like McCain.

    Sure she’s not a geo-strategist like you, but the President (and especially the Vice President) need not be an expert in everything–just in a few things: a true attitude of public service; an understanding of what the Constitution, freedom, and individual sovereignty really mean; and the ability to judge character and surround him/herself with the right advice. (Bush, for one, was horrible at this last, and probably never had the first two. Reagan had all three).

    Our founders debated the importance of a political class and more often than not came down on the side of ordinary citizens serving in government, as Palin has said, “for the right reasons.”

    “Leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff. In general they will elect the really good and wise.” — Jefferson

    I don’t think we have heard the last from Sarah Palin, and I for one am glad for it.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A quick checklist on my posts about Gov Palin:
    …* Discuss education and background, compare with Obama? Here, here, here.
    …* Discuss what she said about domestic policy? Here.
    …* Discuss knowledge of foreign policy? Here, here, here, here, and here.
    …* Review the Alaska Senate’s investigation into Palin’s alleged abuse of power? Here, here, and here. As a follow-up, esp note this “What the Troopergate Report Really Says“, TIME, 11 October 2008.

    Do any conservatives share my opinion of Gov Palin as a VP candidate? Yes.
    * Christopher Buckley.
    * David Frum and Kathleen Parker at National Review Online.
    * Peggy Noonan (President Reagan’s speechwriter) at the Wall Street Journal.
    * Colin Powell.
    * Kenneth Adelman, long-time diplomat under several Republican administrations (bio).
    * Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and former Securities and Exchange Commissioner William Donaldson (source).
    * Douglas Kmiec, diplomat, long-time conservative (source; bio).
    * Lawrence Eagleburger, Sec of State under Bush Sr. and whose endorsement is often cited by McCain, speaking on NPR (AP story, recording) (bio).
    * Ken Duberstein, President Reagan’s Chief of Staff, on CNN (bio).

    “Fab, you seem to have an irrational hatred of Palin.”

    Here we confront one of my long-standing fears. The person commenting here as “Plato” does not believe him to actually be the Greek philosopher. I do not believe myself to be the savior of Rome. But it had to happen, eventually. ArmsMerchant apparently believes himself to be God, or perhaps a god. From the comment it is not clear if he relies on telepathic powers to discern my inner thoughts, or perhaps as the embodiment of Logic can pronounce me jottings as “irrational” — rather than disagreeing with them, as mere mortals do.

    The FM site is equiped with experts in a wide range of fields, but at this time no psycho-therapists. Let’s all hope he obtains the necessary help, to live a long and happy life.

  21. Snob

    My point was not that the bailout was or was not necessary, rather that Jim was correct that the real political split was shown by that particular vote.

  22. Realignment? Big yawn. Remember how things were going to change after a Dem takeover of the Congress in 2006? In fact there were no significant changes, because it matters not which party is in power. They both answer to the same corporate masters, a fact that wasn’t so true in past years. Wars, corporate welfare, Pentagon spending, government intrusion in citizens’ lives, job losses, rigged elections, Palestine inequities, etc. — all will continue. New team captains, perhaps, and some substitute players, but the game goes on. The predominantly Dem passage of the Bogus Bailout Bill is but the latest example, done without regard for overwhelming opposition from citizens and economists alike.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not see how you can compare the election of 2006 with today. The 2006 election followed events considered significant at the time — 9/11/2001, the 2001-02 light short recession, and the 2002-03 invastions of Agfhanistan and Iraq. Today we have what is certainly the most significant global financial crisis since WWII, probably the deepest global recession since WWII, and perhaps the end of the post-WWII geopolitical regime.

  23. A lot of our current problems derive from capital mobility combined with a race to the bottom by labor. Of Marx’s three inputs, this leaves land as the only non threatened and non mobile factor of production. Food growing, and home building may be lousy investments and provide crappy jobs, but at least they don’t have to compete with China. Same for folding sweaters at GAP, and emptying bed pans. Any form of value added that doesn’t have to compete with goods made in China is still viable if not wildly profitable. Expect the government to support more land anchored economic activity. Genuinely profitable activity like oil production will be taxed to support ersatz jobs in home construction, infrastructure, defense, etc. The party that can bullshit us into thinking we’re still a great nation as we go down this path will win elections.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree on both points, calling the latter “global labor arbitrage”. The second part of this series discusses capital mobility.

  24. Depends how bad this crisis gets. If the Doctor-Doomers out there like James Howard Kunstler get their Olduvai Cliff wish and we wind up in a Mad Max-style crash with worthless currency and gridlocked global shipping due to a collapse of the world economic system and $500-a-barrel oil because the dollar has devalued down to nothing, all bets are off.

    In that case, theocratic populism in the style of Father Coughlin might make a big comeback. If enough starving people experience enough plagues and global warming droughts, we could see a massive 1920s-type fundamentalist religious revival that blames the current Democrat in office for not fixing the unfixable problems. In that case, you could see a “solution” to the multiple crises of Peak Oil/Global Warming/breakdown of the Westphalian nation-state system/collapse of the global economy that involves something crazy, like burning heretics on the streets.

    Nutty? Maybe. Unlikely? Listen to the rage of the McCain-Palin crowds. Think these guys are gonna get happier when their houses get foreclosed and their jobs go away and they wind up living in tent cities…and then the cops swoop by at midnight to cut their tents down with razors and blast these folks with pepper spray and mace and tasers?

    It might sound outlandish that the very political party which created a major national crisis could swoop in a few years after the crisis really gets going and present themselves as the nation’s savior from the catastrophe they themselves instigated…but, remember, we have ample precedent. Vietnam, anyone? The Demos started it, the Repubs couldn’t stop it, and the Demos eventually swooped back in and presented thesmselves as the saviors from those eeeeevil Repubs. Notwithstanding that the Demos started the whole mess in the first place. Why couldn’t the Repubs pull the same switcheroo 4 years from now?

    I can easily see a theocratic populist Repub demagogue presenting himself as the “third way” in 2012 and offering to “save the blighted nation which has strayed from God’s righteousness.” In 1977 Jimmy Carter gave the “malaise” speech, laying out a whole lot of facts about Peak Oil that the American people didn’t want to hear. If Obama does something similar in the next 4 years and despite his best efforts a global depression keeps grinding along, the American people are likely to press the EJECT button on Obama just as they did on Carter, and turn to a more comforting, more kindly, more charismatic figure who tells them what they want to hear. Theocracy seems likely because millions of formerly middle class people living in tent cities will probably rediscover religion in a big way…

  25. As a small(er) gov’t Libertarian (now also Paternalist), I certainly regret the Bush Reps’ failure to do much about reducing gov’t during the good times.

    Let’s recall the other Reps of 2008: Paul, Romney, Huckabee

    Ron Paul — 80% great, but now too old, and too much a Lib crank on some issues, and truly anti-war, as well as pro-life. The true small gov’t folk have a choice between big gov’t Reps, HUGE gov’t Dems, and wacky (but intellectually pure, or else) Libertarians.
    Romney — fine, rich, white, male, Mormon, policy wonk kind of oily politician; seemingly willing to adopt the policies he thinks he needs to win the nomination, like pro-life. The never popular ‘Leading Rep’ supported insider.
    Huckabee — the evangelical, Pro-Life populist, big gov’t is OK. Sort of a pro-life anti-elitist ex-democrat kind of guy.
    It is the frustrated Huckabee supporter who are most wildly supportive of Sarah Palin. They will be rivals in 2012 and/or 2016.
    Did I mention pro-life? That issue is not going away until the non-constitutional Roe ‘ammendment’ is significantly reduced — and while lots of pro-life accept/support big gov’t for security, they don’t like elites (of either party) so much.

    If Dems & Obama win now, the Dems will become the party of the elites and there will be a common anti-elite backlash, probably led by Palin and Huckabee, whose base includes the large pro-life frustrated voters. Whose popularity will increase as they correctly forecast the problems that big gov’t will be leading towards.

    16 years of presidency of the same party is the longest run since FDR. I have virtually no fear that either the Dems or Reps will really dominate for more than 20. Similarly, if McCain does win a close election in 2008, but with a Dem majority Congress, I wouldn’t say it was such one-party domination.

    FM: typo? did you mean to highlight ‘economic structure’ on this post I about Politics, and ‘political realignment’ on post II about economics? I think it’s reversed. {FM: those are links; I have added a note to that effect}

  26. Did I say 16 years? Reagan Reagan Bush I = 12 years, longest same party run. “Tired” of the same-ol’ same-ol’ makes a lot of independents vote against the President incumbent party.

    But neither the parties nor the media seem to want to tell voters that it is the majority in Congress that truly does ‘control the purse strings’. There’s so many of them, who can keep track? Just let the King, er, President do it and take all the blame, too.

  27. The political tension we see now has been evident for some time, though not as stark in its presentation to voters. The long standing conflict has been “City” vs “Country” or urban vs rural and exurban. This coincides with the emerging fact, long true, but now starkly revealed, that land anchored economic output must become the rule. The cities must therefore assert their long standing control over politics, culture, and economics, overtly. This is not their first choice. In happier times, City dominion over culture and economic matters was subtle, allowing country folk the illusion of some autonomy. Just as China has built its industrial economic miracle on the backs of rural peasants, America’s cities must strap the yoke onto rural America. It’s going to be “No more Mr. nice guy.” as power and control is overtly transfered to the cities.

  28. Would it have killed you to mention the war that the Republicans won? The Cold War? Probably. Love how Your Fabulousness declares Iraq and Afghanistan worthless failures. Ahhhh, yes…it’s such a terrible thing for America to now have a military beachhead in the heart of the middle east. Indeed, so awful to know that now when things go sideways there we won’t have to mount a D-Day-like invasion that would claim in an afternoon what we have lost over 5 years.

    Re: Sarah P: the American system was set up to be run by Sarah Palins. You know and I know that any half dozen of your friends would make a decent POTUS. Sarah, of course, is a walking insult to those invested in the DC/political – Boston/Academic – New York/Media – New York/financial axis. Sorry about that; meantime love where that axis’ brightest and best – as worshipped by Fabby – have led us.

    This election is more of a plebiscite than an election. It’s The Generation of ’68 – now cosily ensconced in the media, academia and politics – forcing on us, yet again their undying McGovernite dreams. Republicans have stayed their hand but they’re tired; let the Democrats drink, then, at long last, from their poison cup.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What have we won?

    Iraq War — Did we find the WMD’s? Although the President has put forth various justifications for teh war in the past 6 years, that was the first and (IMO) the only worthwhile one. The result will, so far as I can tell, achieve no substantial benefit to the United States — a nothing achieved at vast cost in lives (both of Iraq’s people and Coalition troops) and money (funds that we could have used in the next few years).

    Afghanistan — Not only is this IMO devoid of any strategic rationale, I know of no expert — military, area expert, or other — who believes we are “winning” (as if that is possible without any strategic benefit at stake).

    “You know and I know that any half dozen of your friends would make a decent POTUS”

    Preposterous. This is the Sunday baseball fan who thinks that he could lead his team to victory — after all, it looks so simple!

  29. On your intellectual piece, you seem to not understand your political history nor geopolitical strategies. After the Berlin wall fell (under the pressures applied by 2 Republican administrations) this brought on new dimensions a repositioning of needs both from a political and military perspective. We were no longer worried about tanks pouring through Germany’s Fulda Gap and Russia was quickly becoming more dependent upon our capital markets to deliver capital infusions into a quickly deteriorating system. The new front had been developing for sometime due to the short sighted view and neglect of the then current Iranian government. Under a democratic administration, we sold short the SHAH and allowed the birth if radical Islamic fundamentalism to explode. This beget, Hezbollah, Hamas, the resurgence and growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and brought on a wave of mid-east terror, murders, discrimination, barbarism and and destruction that created the first GULF WAR between IRAQ & IRAN. It created the group responsible bombing and murdering over 200 Marines sent for a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

    Yes, we used debt to counter the Russians without for the most part, firing a single shot. Yes, a Republican finally had the nerve to pull our troops after a Democrat (Kennedy) sent troops to Southeast Asia (Vietnam) and another Democrat (Johnson) sent more.

    Bush II has a big government…let me see. We were attacked and dealt a devastating blow to the nation by a foreign entity with deep human connections to organizations and persons living in the US…rational thought created Homeland Security, increased military funding, re focused efforts towards the new Central Asian front to protect interests there and develop better intel, forward force projection and to create the attraction for radicals over there and not at home. I believe any professional soldier you meet would agree that it is better to take the fight there and have the radicals attacking professional trained and better equipped US military personnel than to have them attacking unarmed civilians here at home.

    We have many reasons to be there in Central Asia…right now, I can’t see a reason to leave. Honestly, the Saudis don’t want us to leave. Egypt doesn’t, Israel doesn’t, Jordan really doesn’t and QATAR could kiss their financial gains and world financial status goodbye if we leave.

    Republicans didn’t start the wars, but we sure as hell will finish them. We stay to win and the Dems start to loose. There hasn’t been a single Democratic military victory in over 60yrs…and yet the wars they’ve put us in have cost us more American lives a 100 times over what Bush II has cost us.

    Get your facts straight bub.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It is always interesting to see folks so confident of their views that they state them as “facts” not intrepretations, analysis, or opinions. I have discussed all these things elsewhere at some length.

  30. I forgot… On BUSH II’s big Government…

    The worst disaster the world has experienced (the Tsunami)came on his watch (after 911) and left approximately ~184,168 confirmed dead, ~230,210 est. deaths, ~125,000 injured, ~45,752 missing with a total of approximately ~1.69 million casualties. This cost us billions that we dedicated to supporting the cleanup.

    The worst natural disaster our country has experienced (KATRINA) happened under his watch. Sure, there was plenty of Federal ignorance of the situation, but that had been going on for several administrations over the years both Republican & Democrat…but it happened on Bush’s and we grew FEMA to meet the demand as well as sent support from other organizations and government agencies as well…

    He restocked our intelligent agencies and military apparatus that Clinton had basically gutted after coming into office. Remember Somalia? Oh, another Democrat led conflict that we had to leave with our tail between our legs…because rather than listen to the field officers, we tried to run that war from Washington.

    So to say, Bush is responsible for big government…I bet its far far less than the Government increases delivered by FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton…plus.

    As for this financial debacle…the Democrat led social engineering meant to provide loans to minorities created an opportunity for greed and corruption of our free market system when Carter created the Community Reinvestment ACT. While it seemed to run fine for a number of years, Clinton saw fit to force bankers to make even more loans to individuals and organizations that did not have the capital or revenues to pay back those loans should those revenue streams and our financial system become stressed…many didn’t even have the income period…much less savings to support the lending. This was beyond negligent…it was criminal. CRA is a good thing when it isn’t abused…but by forcing banks to hit targets higher than prudent levels would indicate and then opening up the cash liquidity with Federal backing in FNMA and FHLMC…greed and corruption were bound to happen. Unfortunately, it falls to Republicans to clean up another mess…

    Yes wall street is full of greed…but did you ever expect anything different … What we need to stop doing is stuffing the hen house with hens and leaving the door open for the fox.

  31. Asher : what in your opinion should be done? Re – elect bush II? I thought each potus gets only 2 terms? Havin’ US troops stationed in the mid east requires large amounts of MONEY (scarce right ’bout NOW), get the banks to print more? PNAC is strange narrative instead of sensible grand strategy (only a matter of time when ANY hegemon meets opposition to its influence). The Russians weren’t exactly happy ’bout the collapse of their Union, havin’ the Americans “bailin'” ’em with the “shock therapy” solutions of the world bank & IMF devastated their economy. Bet they still harbor great resentment…

    LOST OPPORTUNITIES for lastin’ alliances with the Rest of the World due to all that CROWIN’ ’bout bein’ the Last Remainin’ Superpower. Steppin’ on the toes of other nations was pure foolish, regardless of whether the potus was republican or democrat.

    ‘Bout “homeland security”, IHMO it’s turnin’ the US into one big police state. I’ve had the misfortune to actually grow up in a draconian state myself. STIFLIN’ is the only appropriate word (besides the use of profane). I doubt it is in the interests of Americans for their country to “devolve” into such a state. Where people can be havin’ dinner in the evenin’ & have SWAT personnel barge into their livin’ rooms & gettin’ pinned down for suspicion of bein’ terrorists.

    Be hearin’ from ya.

  32. Update: More signs of a political realignment in two columns by Joe Klein of Time.

    Round Three“, Joe Klein, Time, 16 October 2008 — Excerpt:

    “‘This really gets down to the fundamental difference in our philosophies,’ John McCain said, quite accurately, in the heat of the third presidential debate. … The job, in this case, was finding health insurance. And in years past, McCain would have had the better of this argument — it is the classic division between liberals and conservatives. But 2008 has proved to be a new and frightening moment for the American electorate, and having the government help in finding, and funding, health care doesn’t sound like such a bad idea anymore. McCain had a feisty debate, with some high points and a bit too much anger to make Americans feel very comfortable in his presence, but to a very great extent, his fate — like this election — was out of his control. This is simply not a good year to say, ‘Joe, take care of your health care yourself.’ It seems an impossible year for McCain’s Reagan Republican philosophy.

    “… The structural weakness of McCain’s position was evident every time Obama described a program — health care, education, energy — in the third debate. cnn’s focus group of independent Ohioans would send the dials on their electric gizmos spinning into the stratosphere. They loved the idea that government would spend more on education or energy or regulate the health-insurance companies. They also loved the idea that government should do this carefully — McCain’s best moment was when he described how he’d cut waste.”

    Senator Government V. Joe the Plumber“, Joe Klein, blogging at Time, 16 October 2008 — Excerpt:

    “Pundits tend to be a lagging indicator. This is particularly true at the end of a political pendulum swing. We’ve been conditioned by thirty years of certain arguments working–and John McCain made most of them last night against Barack Obama: you’re going to raise our taxes, you’re going to spend more money, you want to negotiate with bad guys, you’re associated somehow–the associations have gotten more tenuous over time–with countercultural and unAmerican activities.

    “Again, these arguments have “worked” for a long time. The Democrats who got themselves elected President during most of my career were those most successful at playing defense: No, no, I’m not going to do any of those things! And so the first reaction of more than a few talking heads last night was that McCain had done better, maybe even won, because he had made those arguments more successfully than he had in the first two debates. I disagreed, even before the focus groups and snap polls rendered their verdict: I thought McCain was near-incomprehensible when talking about policy, locked in the coffin of conservative thinking and punditry. He spoke in Reagan-era shorthand. He thought that merely invoking the magic words “spread the wealth” and “class warfare” he could neutralize Obama.

    “But those words and phrases seem anachronistic, almost vestigial now. Indeed, they have become every bit as toxic as Democratic social activist proposals–government-regulated and subsidized health care, for example–used to be. We have had 30 years of class warfare, in which the wealthy strip-mined the middle class. The wealth has been “spread” upward. The era when Democrats could only elect Presidents from the south, who essentially promised to take the harsh edge off of conservatism, is over. Barack Obama is the most unapologetic advocate of government activism since Lyndon Johnson–which is not to say that his brand of activism will be the same as Johnson’s (we’ve learned a lot about the perils of bureacracy and the value of market incentives since then)–and he seems to be giving the public exactly what it wants this year. Who knows? Maybe even the word “liberal” can now be uttered in mixed company again.

    “The point is, this is a very good year to be Senator Government. Ronald Reagan used to say that the most frightening nine words in the English language were ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ That is no longer true.”

  33. Fabius Maximus, are George Soros. You sound very anti-american and much like communist granpa Lenin.

    Just to let you know, all socialistic governments in the world fail. People get used to entitelement mentality really fast and soon everybody under such government would be on a well-fare program, not producing any taxes and expanding government size like a big bubble, which has been proven time after time in many countries not US only, that government run companies, organizations don’t work. People in them don’t work.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Imagine how advanced the social sciences would be if we could test contrafactuals! For example, sending Blah back to 1941 to give speeches in their local parks. Telling America that their wartime mobilization was “socialism”, and that the majority of Americans were “anti-American.” Just a guess, but the resulting airborne barrage of fruit might constitute a decisive rebuttal to his theory. In some small towns they might collect feathers and heat tar …

  34. Fab, I think the bottom of this economic retrenchment is years away. If so, Obama will go down as a modern Hoover no matter what he does in office. By the end of this, I doubt either major party will survive in its present form. As to what replaces them, I shudder to guess.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a theory in circulation, as in “Why Obama Looks Like a One Termer“, James Pethokoukis, blogging for US News and World Report, 11 November 2008. {Note: speaking of economic damage, by mocking the signals of the coming recession with his “Dude, Where’s the Recession” columns, Pethokoukis probably discouraged many of those foolish enough to listen to him from preparing before the full force of the downturn hit them}

    This is of course possible. But I doubt the American people are as stupid as Pethokoukis and his ilk believe us to be. The crisis began with the collapse of the mortgage brokers in December 2006, and will start to hit with considerable force in the remaining months of the Bush Administration. The responsibility will be clear, IMO, to most voters — as it was in the 1930’s.

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